Family therapy techniques are used with individuals and families to address the issues that effect the health of the family system. The types of techniques used will depend on what issues are causing the most problems for a family, and how well the family has learned to handle these issues. Strategic techniques are designed for specific purposes within the treatment process. Background information, family structuring and communication patterns are some of the areas addressed through these methods.
At the start of therapy, information regarding the family's background and relationship dynamics is needed to identify potential issues and problems. The genogram is a technique used to create a family history, or genealogy. Both the family and therapist work to create this diagram. Having family members bring in meaningful photos is also a technique used to gather information as to how each member perceives the others. One other technique involves having family members draw up floor plans of their home. This exercise provides information on territorial issues, rules, and comfort zones between different members.
A family operates like a system in that each member's role contributes to the patterns of behaviour that make the system what it is. Certain therapy techniques are designed to reveal the patterns that make a family function the way it does. The tracking technique is a recording process where the therapist keeps notes on how situations develop within the family system. Interventions used to address family problems can be designed based on the patterns uncovered by this technique. Family sculpting is another technique that's used to realign relationship patterns within the group. Members are asked to physically arrange where they want each member to be in relation to the others. This technique provides insight into relationship conflicts within the family.
More often than not, it's a family's communication patterns and styles that lead to conflict and division. Communication techniques are used to build skills that allow for effective communication between family members. Some of these methods include reflecting, repeating and fair fighting. Reflecting involves having a member express her feelings and concerns, then having another member repeat back what he heard that person say. Repeating techniques involve having a member state how he feel, while another member repeats back what was said. Repeating and reflecting techniques allow members to better understand where the other is coming from, and why they feel as they do. Fair fighting techniques focus on attentive listening, and expressing feelings and concerns in a nonthreatening manner.
Intervention techniques are directives given by the therapist to guide a family's interactions towards more productive outcomes. Reframing is a method used to recast a particular conflict, or situation in a less threatening light. A father who constantly pressures his son regarding his grades may be seen as a threatening figure by the son. Reframing this conflict would involve focusing on the father's concern for his son's future, and helping the son to "hear" his father's concern instead of constant demands for improvement. Another technique has the therapist placing a particular conflict or situation under the family's control. What this means is, instead of a problem controlling how the family acts, the family controls how the problem is handled. This requires the therapist to give specific directives as to how long members are to discuss the problem, who they discuss it with, and how long these discussions should last. As members carry out these directives, they begin to develop a sense of control over the problem, which helps them to better deal with it effectively.
Listed below there is a collection of literature on Family Therapy
Family and Couples Therapy: Clinical Applications
Handbook of Clinical Family Therapy